From the Wapakoneta Daily News’ Mike Burkholder:

While winter brings an array of outdoor activities, a local park official says residents should be cautious when it comes to venturing out on a frozen Grand Lake St. Marys.

Ice fishing, skating and other activities are common during the winter. However, Grand Lake St. Marys Interim Park Manager Brian Miller stressed the importance of checking the ice before heading out on the lake.

“They should use a chisel or drill a hole on the shore or boat dock so that they can check the depth,” Miller said. “A lot of times you can call the local bait shops and they can give you an ice report on what they are hearing, but you always want to make sure to check it for yourself.”

According to information supplied by the Ohio Division of Watercraft, the minimum recommended depth of new, clear ice if 4 inches for foot travel. It is recommended there is 5 inches for snowmobiles and ATVs and 8 to 12 inches for cars or small trucks. However, Miller warned that there is no such thing as completely safe ice.

“We can’t stress enough that people need to check it,” Miller said. “We started to get some good ice, but we got some rain and some snow on top so it’s not good ice. The snow provides an insulation blanket.”

The Ohio Division of Watercraft also encourages residents to refrain from driving on ice, when possible, and to abstain from consuming alcohol. Consumption of alcohol cools the body.

Other tips include keeping ice picks handy and wearing a life vest. If someone falls through the ice, Miller said rescuers should remain calm.

“Call 911 and make sure you have other people in route,” Miller said. “If you go out on the ice, you could put yourself in jeopardy so use a rope, an extension cord or something you can throw to the person to pull them out. You don’t want to put yourself in danger.”

To prepare for possible ice rescues, local fire departments and park officials stage training sessions each year. Miller said the session help make sure rescuers are familiar with each other and are able to work together in the event of a rescue.

“We are actually getting ready to do a joint training in January,” Miller said.

“A lot of the local fire departments do have ice rescue equipment and we do as well at the state park. We do that annually and it gives us a chance to get familiar with other equipment and people.”